As the July 1 free agent frenzy got underway, announcements were coming left and right from many teams. For the Boston Bruins, what was originally announced as a one-year deal turned out to actually be a five-year deal for David Backes. And Friday afternoon he opened the doors to questions as he met via teleconference with the media.

“From all [of my discussions with management and a couple of players] and my knowledge of playing against Boston, the games against Boston in St Louis the last ten years, always seem to be tight-checking, heavy games which, that’s the kind of hockey I like playing and [the Bruins] play in a style that I really fit into,” Backes said in his opening remarks. “I guess if there are any questions that are out there, I’d love to answer them and let people in Boston and the media get to know me a little bit better and we can build this relationship question by question, day by day, to have some familiarity.”

Such an invitation shows that Backes is not just hockey smart, but that he understands that the fans need to get to know him. After all, he spent the last ten years wearing the colors of an enemy in the form of the St. Louis Blues. His hockey sense and his game definitely fit the style of the Bruins. Coupling that with his experience as a leader and his drive to win, and he is certainly a strong addition to the Bruins for the coming season.

“It’s the package. Obviously the leadership qualities, [St. Louis] went for a real deep run. {Backes is] hungry to have another opportunity to win,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told media Friday evening. “During our conversations he spoke about knowing our team and how hard they are to play against, respecting our leaders and our club.”

Sweeney’s comments about Backes’ hunger and his respect for the leaders already on the Bruins roster were not mere lip service. Backes, though he doesn’t know any of the Bruins’ players on a personal level, has gotten to know many of them as opponents, and what he saw from them resonated, especially when the Bruins organization reached out to him.

David Backes

David Backes

He spoke strongly about playing wherever head coach Claude Julien feels is best. Though usually a center, he is willing to play wing. Such a flexibility offers the Bruins an opportunity to have an extensibility with their lineup that perhaps hasn’t been there in the last couple of years. Knowing that Backes can slot into the center position if needed, or if his center gets tossed from a face-off, provides a stronger start to a shift. After all, the best defense is a strong offense and if the Bruins start out the shift with puck possession that increases their scoring chances.

Backes talked of the importance of leadership, something that was questioned this last year at certain points in the season when the Bruins struggled—usually on home ice.

“I think without getting too deep into it, the difference level is that we need a cohesive leadership group that’s made up of prominent players that have a loud voice and walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” Backes described. “If you have that—a good four to five guys with those qualities—the rest of the team has no option but to jump on board and fall in line.”

All eyes will certainly be on the team when the season opens to see who is buying in to the system and following the leaders. But it is clear that Backes intends to be one of those loud voices of a “cohesive leadership.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing he shared though was his obvious respect for Patrice Bergeron, which also illuminated his own intense competitive drive.

“I can maybe flatter a little bit now that he’s my teammate, but I hate giving players credit, giving them any edge when I’m playing against them. But he’s a guy you were pissed at by the end of the game because he never made a mistake,” Backes proffered. “That’s a good way to be successful defensively and then, by the end of the game he typically was producing something [on the] offensive side of the score sheet too.”

The 32-year-old Minnesota native may not have envisioned moving to another team after ten years, but he certainly sounds ready to give Boston his all both on the ice and in the locker room.

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.

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